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August 14, 2000

Pikes Peak races Ascent: First wave starts at 7 a.m. Saturday on Manitou Avenue in the center of Manitou Springs. Second wave starts at 7:30 a.m. 1,800 walkers and runners have registered. The 13.32-mile race begins at 6,295 feet and gains 7,815 feet to the summit of Pikes Peak.

Marathon: The 26.21-mile race starts at 7 a.m. Sunday. It follows the same route to the top of Pikes Peak and ends at the corner of Ruxton and Manitou avenues. 800 registered.

Race-day registration: None. Both races are full.

Spectators: Best viewing opportunities for the marathon are at the finish, along Ruxton Avenue, Sunday morning. First finisher is expected 10:15-11 a.m. Either day, spectators may take the cog railway (685-5401; reservations recommended) or drive the Pikes Peak Highway (684-9383) to the summit to see the finish of the ascent or the marathon turnaround.

Volunteers: Call 473-2625.

Did you know? The Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon began in 1956 as a challenge between smokers and non-smokers. (The non-smokers won).

Racer's motto: Walk, don't run

By Todd Burgess/The Gazette

Dear Pikes Peak Ascent runner:

Your friends and co-workers are going to ask, "So, did you beat the guy who walks every step?" Odds are, you are going to have to answer, "no."

When 46-year-old Craig Burbank reaches the summit of Pikes Peak late Saturday morning, it will be his 35th ascent since May 1.

He's shooting for 3 hours, 45 minutes - a time that would have placed him in the top 20 percent last year.

Craig will be easy to identify. Look for white: a white long-sleeved shirt; white long underwear under a pair of shorts; and his white, trademark, wide-brimmed hat tucked into the belt of his fanny pack.

When the starting gun and cannon go off, No. 622 might be the only person in the first wave, the fast wave, who walks.

Everything about Craig Burbank will be in a hurry: legs taking long, stiff strides; arms swinging crisply; eyes fixed straight ahead; his mind somewhere else, crunching numbers like an accountant.

He's divided the race into 14 segments, each one timed on his training hikes. He knows, to the second, what time he should hit Hydro Street, French Creek, Barr Camp and the A Frame.

He has trained as hard as most Pikes Peak Marathon runners. He puts in as many miles. He does as much hill work. He spends more time at altitude. In July, he made 14 trips to the top of the mountain.

Three times a week this summer, he'd go to bed at 7 p.m., wake up at 3:30 a.m. and hike to the summit before 9.

On Wednesdays, Craig would "do the marathon," beginning where the race does: Manitou Springs City Hall, a block from his apartment. He'd start the timer on his watch and begin his 13.32-mile, 7,815-vertical-foot march.

He'd spend a couple hours at 14,000 feet talking about his training to anyone who would listen, grab lunch in the summit house then hike 13.32 miles back down.

Every Saturday and Sunday, he'd do an ascent, linger on top of the mountain to get his body used to altitude, then hitchhike down the Pikes Peak Highway or buy a return ticket for the cog railway.

A few have tried to convert him.

"I think a lot of runners, they snicker at somebody who walks and doesn't run," Craig says. "They may underestimate what the potential for walking is. ... The limitation is not whether you walk or run. It's more your weight and strength and aerobic capacity."

Someday, Craig says, he may incorporate running into his training. But walking has been so good to him, he's in no hurry to change his preferred mode of transportation.

Craig is semi-retired. He does pro bono work during the tax season. He lives off his investments: a simple, Pikes Peak-centered life.

He doesn't own a car. Sometimes he catches a bus, or a ride with a friend, but he usually walks to where he wants to go. Craig can walk 35 miles in a day without any lingering side effects. Not even a blister.

He's a little fearful that he could get hurt if he ran. He's compared workout notes with runners and found that those who match his mileage - nearly 300 miles a month - tend to get injured.

More importantly, though, Craig believes he hasn't reached his peak, so to speak, as a walker.

Race director Dave Zehrer estimates fewer than two percent of the 1,800 people who entered the ascent will run every step. In other words, almost everyone will walk part of the race.

For some runners, there's shame in walking. They would rather jog painfully slow than walk - even if it means a slower time and even though they are just postponing the inevitable.

The runners who are determined to beat Craig must get an early lead and hold on. He is at a disadvantage from French Creek (4.3 miles into the race) to Barr Camp (7.6 miles), where the trail is relatively flat and runners cruise past him. But after Barr Camp, Craig's altitude training pays off.

Ascent runners, maybe you're ready to concede defeat. You're thinking: Next year, I'll train harder than Craig. I'll run more miles. I'll run more hills. No walker can beat me two years in a row.

Hate to tell you this: Craig is already sketching out some goals for next year. He thinks 3:15 may be within his reach.

Maybe you ought to check out the potential of walking.

Good luck,


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